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UPDATE -- Winter Storm Hits FL Panhandle

Winter precipitation is moving into the Florida Panhandle, the produce of frigid arctic air and Gulf moisture.

Escambia County’s Emergency Operations Center activated at midnight. Emergency Management Chief John Dosh says they’re at level-2, with only key agencies on hand for now.  

Throughout the year the Escambia EOC conducts table-top exercises to cover a number of scenarios – hurricanes and other natural and man-made disasters. Dosh says those – and the current winter storm development – are all part of what he calls “consequence management.”

“Basically, dealing with whether it’s a hurricane, an ice storm, a forest fire, whatever – it’s still a transportation issue and preparedness and all that stuff,” said Dosh. “But, for the most part it’s a little challenging because we’re not really equipped to handle these icing and snow conditions.”

Dosh says some facilities are on standby to serve as shelters, in case of power outages.  Jerry Kindle with the American Red Cross’ Northwest Florida chapter is in touch with county emergency managers. Along with the shelters, disaster response personnel are standing by if needed.

Elsewhere, Emerald Coast Utilities Authority offices were open Tuesday conducting normal operations, and expect to be open on Wednesday. All sanitation collections are on regular schedules.

Gulf Power Company has more than a dozen crews ready to deploy across the EscaRosa region. Many of those in the crews recently were in Texas assisting with power restoration, and spokesman Jeff Rogers says that helps with being ready for anything here.

Employees at the Crist, Smith and Scholz Plants are moving into storm schedules. While there could be some ice forming on power lines from the incoming storm.

There are ways, says Gulf Power’s Jeff Rogers, that customers can help them if the electricity goes out.
“If they do lose power, we ask them to go to their thermostat and turn their heater off,” Rogers said. “And then, when they get power restored, if they wouldn’t mind just waiting 5-15 minutes before they turn their heater back on.”

More closings and curtailments are being announced as the storm approaches the Florida Panhandle. Naval Air Station Pensacola is limiting operations today and Wednesday. NAS Whiting Field is ceasing air operations from noon today through noon tomorrow, and at Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field, non-mission critical personnel were sent home.